Toddler tantrums – our new reality

The last few mornings of getting Pookster ready for school have been a little bit less than fun. She usually wakes up crying, drinks her milk, and then picks at her (first) breakfast and cries for her pacifier. She’s definitely teething, as I can see when I brush her teeth that there are even more teeth coming, but it’s been pretty miserable. She’s usually a great eater, but the last three mornings, her eating has been pretty terrible. She will eat a couple spoonfuls of Weetbix, a couple bites of greens, beets, or mushrooms, maybe 6 spoonfuls of yogurt and almond butter, and then wine and whinge to get out of her high chair. She’ll demand to walk and get out of the chair, but once out, she refuses to walk and wants to sit. Or, even worse, she will splay her entire body all over the play mat, face down, and cry.

At the end of the day (or, well, morning), I just need to get her ready to get out the door. So I try to coax her to eat between getting her snacks and lunch box packed, then clean her up, do her hair, dress her, clean up her high chair and splat mat, and do all the dishes. Once she’s finally in the stroller seat, she seems to calm down, but it’s definitely a struggle to get to that point. When is this supposed to get easier?

The decline of Halal Guys and the rise of the new kid on the block (Adel’s Halal)

Tonight, I walked down to 45th and 6th Avenue to attend my friend’s Thought Experience event. On my way to and from the event, I noticed a crazy, block-long line of people waiting for a food cart I’d never heard of before: Adel’s Halal. There were two carts: one where the food was being served up and where they were accepting payment, and a second cart just where all the food preparation and cooking were happening. It was clear that these guys were doing a lot of marinating and prep on this side. I immediately looked it up to find that this cart had over 600 reviews on Yelp and 1,500+ reviews on Google, with overwhelmingly positive reviews, as well as people talking about a wait, no matter what time of day, of on average 45 minutes. This basically echoes the hey day of the Halal Guys food cart. This cart has now been hailed as the “world’s best” halal cart, not even just New York City’s. They even have this labeled on their cart.

About 15+ years ago when I first had Halal Guys, I used to marvel over Halal Guys’ chicken/beef/lamb on rice. I loved how well marinated, flavorful, and juicy the meat was. I always looked forward to the buttery, greasy yellow rice. The white sauce was always addictive, and the tiny hits of their hot sauce used to be nearly deadly. The very first time I had it, an entire serving of chicken/lamb on rice was only $5-6, so it was definitely a very tasty steal, a no-fail budget eat. Since then, though, the prices have only risen, and the quality had drastically declined. They stopped serving lamb, citing higher costs, and the meat has dried out. Even the rice the last couple of times we’ve eaten it has been lackluster. I don’t really look forward to the white sauce anymore. It’s also expanded quite a bit: they have brick and mortar locations all over the U.S., so it isn’t as special anymore. And people clearly realize this because when I passed their two carts on 53rd and 6th avenue, they had zero lines at all, just a couple people waiting for their food orders to pick up.

I also noticed they had a new sign advertising something new: spicy slow braised lamb. I guess they had found a new lamb vendor and were reintroducing lamb after a long time of not having it. And the prices? $17 for the regular sized plate, $16 for a small plate, and $14 for a sandwich. I immediately took a picture and sent it to Chris, who summed up my thoughts perfectly: “$17. That ain’t street food anymore.”

Oven “fried” chicken

I am pretty certain that everyone loves fried food, whether they want to admit it out loud or not. I’m also certain that everyone loves fried chicken, even vegans who are in denial. Who could really resist the crunch, the juiciness, and the delicious scent of chicken fat? However, what most people do not like is a lot of oil used for frying… in their own kitchen. It’s a LOT of oil that is required for deep frying, and potentially a lot of waste if you do not reuse the oil. There is also a fine line between re-using that oil enough times to get a good ROI vs. using it one time too many and getting a stale, greasy “fry.” But the crispy skin juxtaposed with the juicy meat quite the temptation. So many home cooks have tried to replicate “frying” with techniques used in the oven for similar results.

I’d had Amanda Hesser’s “oven fried” chicken bookmarked for years now. I always said that at some point, I’d prioritize buying bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs just to make this recipe, but I got so sucked into my usual routine of just buying boneless, skinless thighs that I’d always forget. Once I got Butcherbox, though, I decided I would slightly go out of my comfort zone and finally make this happen. And I did today! I used this recipe, brined, coated in a light flour/parmesan/smoked paprika coating, and oven “fried” with just two tablespoons of butter, for about one hour. And the result was incredible: the skin was super crackly and crunchy. And the meat was juicy and tender.

I’m looking forward to using this recipe again and again in the future, with slight tweaks here and there for seasoning, like garlic or onion powder. This was a hit!

Buy Nothing group snags and acts of service as love

I recently have scored quite a number of useful things via my local Buy Nothing group: a “vintage” set of Pyrex glass mixing bowls; a lot of fun board books to entertain Kaia’s passion for reading; eight massive bulbs of fresh garlic. With the garlic, it was more an aside from the person I picked up about eight board books from. She kind of threw it in as an after thought, and I passively said “why not?” I mean, I could always use garlic. But when I collected it, I realized, WOW. This is a LOT. Plus, the cloves were WAY fatter than the ones I get from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. And I don’t know how old this garlic was or if it was on the brink of going bad. So when I bought some bok choy, I thought I could make it the way the Sambal Lady makes her bok choy, which is to blanch it, season it, then sprinkle the top with homemade garlic chips. And with half of these garlic bulbs, plus another bulb of my own, I decided I’d make garlic chips. But I didn’t really want to peel and slice all 70-80 cloves of garlic by myself.

So, I decided I’d use the Mother’s Day excuse and ask Chris to do this task. It’s not a task for ME; it’s a task for the family to enable tasty meals. When he woke up this morning, I declared this to him, and he immediately groaned. Then, he saw exactly how many cloves there were on the kitchen counter, and he tried to negotiate with me and said he’d do half. I said, no, he had to do all of them. In the end, maybe he left about 15 undone, but it was still a pretty good job. He spent about an hour just peeling them, then did the slicing a few hours later. While Kaia napped in the early afternoon, I fried the garlic. Unfortunately, I probably fried them a minute too long, but it was still edible.

While many mothers out there want expensive gifts and flowers for Mother’s Day, I really do not want any *thing*, per se. I’d really just like acts of service as love. I will make sure to ask Chris to peel and slice garlic cloves for future garlic chips, especially now that I didn’t master frying them to the optimal level during my first try.

When you have no parents and no family

Today, we went to Industry City to meet up with a couple we met at a food/beer event about two years ago. Every subsequent time I see them, I learn a little more about the childhood of the woman in the couple, who seems like she’s had… quite an ordeal through her life. Her mom abandoned her at birth. Her dad abandoned her twice, once when she was years old, and again when she was about 15 years old. She was primarily raised by her grandmother, but even then, the relationship was restrained and not very loving. So she’s never really had any real “family” experience or felt like she belonged anywhere. In fact, she didn’t really come to understand what “family” even meant until she married her now husband about 11 years ago. That was really the beginning of when she started feeling like she had family.

It’s such a strange thought to think about not having any family or place of belonging at all, especially given that Mother’s Day is tomorrow. Many of us have parents who we have great, strained, or tumultuous relationships with, but regardless of the status or depth of the relationship, the relationship still exists… or existed. In this friend’s case, she has no one to call her parents or to refer to when she discusses where she came from. And it seems like such a painful, lonely thought. But she’s done quite well for herself and wants to do so much good in her life. She’s active in her neighborhood and serves on her community board. She’s done development and strategy work to improve the lives of children in under-served communities across the U.S. and developing countries. She does freelance writing to shed light on her own personal experiences and how they can affect the world. Every time I talk to her, I realize how complex and multi-faceted she is, and how a lot of us can learn so much from her life experiences… of being rejected by the two people who brought her into this world, but not letting that run or ruin her life.

“When Kaia is a teenager”

I was on my way to pick Kaia up from daycare this late afternoon when on the phone with my mom. She was visiting an old friend from her continuation school days, who lives about 45 minutes outside San Francisco. My mom has not seen this friend in over ten years, which means that this friend has no idea that Ed had passed away. I’m sure she’s still saying that “Ed is fine,” and “not married yet.”

This friend had one child, a daughter, who had two daughters, both of whom are currently high school age. My mom was telling me this on the phone, and then suddenly laughed, exclaiming, “I’m looking forward to seeing Kaia when she’s a teenager!” My mom is always coveting what her seemingly better off relatives and friends have.

It’s both annoying and weird that she said this. Firstly, when we came to visit last August, not only did she almost completely ruin the entire trip, but the time she did have with Kaia, she barely interacted with her at all, and instead insisted on doing random household chores that weren’t urgent, or going on “walks for exercise” that would last over an hour. The only time she actually held her, it was when my aunt forced Kaia into her arms and sat her into a chair. How is she looking forward to seeing Kaia as a teenager when she barely sees her to begin with, and when she does have time with her, she doesn’t want to spend it with her?

Rough mornings with daycare Pookster

This morning, Kaia barely ate any breakfast. She got mad any time I tried to take her pacifier from her. She had about three spoonfuls of yogurt, a couple bites of muffin and oatmeal strips, three bites of beet. She completely ignored her carrots and even her mushrooms. When she refused her beets and mushrooms, that is when I knew for sure that she was teething. I ended up dumping all her food she didn’t touch into a container and saved it for dinner in the fridge. When I gave her her toothbrush with a little toothpaste smeared on it, and she threw the brush onto the floor, smearing toothpaste everywhere, that’s when I knew I had to get a little aggressive with her. I changed her into her clothes for the day, then pinned her arms under my legs and brushed her teeth. She screamed and cried endlessly, but I really was not having it this morning. She already barely ate anything and kept getting mad when the pacifier got removed, and now she was refusing to brush. Sometimes, things just need to get done! So I explained to her that I didn’t want to upset her, but she had to get her teeth brushed and get to school.

This was a quick preview into my very-near-future life as a mother of a growing toddler. There will likely be many mornings far worse than this one, but at least I am tough enough to just power through it.

The pros and cons of nanny vs. daycare/school

At least a few times a month across all the mom/parent groups I am in, some flustered, frantic mom or dad will post that they are quickly approaching the end of their family leave with their company and will need to return to work soon, and they haven’t yet decided on whether they will choose to hire a nanny or put their child in daycare. And every single time a post like this comes up, the same answers in different tones and levels of exasperation or insistence will respond. Some are level headed and say there are pros and cons to both, then briefly highlight those pros and cons; others will be determined to convince you that only one path is the right path. And very, very occasionally, someone will try to shame you for even wanting to go back to work and say that “they’re only this little once,” and insist that the REAL best path is for you to simply quit your job and be a full-time, stay-at-home parent (never mind that 95% of these posts are in New York City, and specifically Manhattan, where the cost of living is extremely, extremely high, and most people with a child will need a dual income household just to pay the bills and ensure some level of savings is still happening. And to further complicate that last point: here in the U.S., employment is not just your source of income; it’s also in more cases than not your source of fully or partially subsidized healthcare, any perks you get, as well as, well, part of your identity. We do live in a country where people “live to work” as a culture.

After a week and a half of having Kaia at daycare/school, having started at about 16.5 months of age, this is generally what I’ve come up with for pros and cons:

Nanny pros:

Childcare comes to you; super convenient

Nanny acts as your backup care for nights/days out for dinner, theater, etc.

More personalized childcare (the nanny contract explicitly states that the nanny follows your instructions for everything from feeding, like baby-led weaning, to what activities the child will do, etc.). Granted, as discussed in previous posts about our ex-nanny, that was not always the case with insolent nannies, but at least “personalized care” is in THEORY what is supposed to happen.

If you work from home, you will still get to see your child come in and out throughout the day and not miss them as much

Nanny will take care of child-related tasks to relieve you from doing them, such as baby laundry, cleaning of playmat, cleaning the child’s bedroom/play areas, changing station, baby bath tub, toys, etc.

Nanny takes care of weekday baby bathing

Since your baby will be around fewer people vs. in daycare, baby is less likely to get sick as often

Nanny cons:

It’s EXTREMELY EXPENSIVE, at least in HCOL areas like New York City. Nannies will charge anywhere from $20-35/hour. The majority will expect that you pay for their monthly Metrocard, snacks, and by law, you also have to pay them for federal holidays, five days sick leave, plus at minimum 10 PTO days. They also require guaranteed hours per week since they rely on you solely for their income; this means that even if you choose not to use them for a given day or week, you will still need to pay them for the minimum number of guaranteed hours on their contract. So in other words, even when you don’t “use” their services, you still have to pay them like you are.

If you pay on the books, expect to pay a lot more than you originally imagined for things like household employer insurance, employer-side taxes. You will also have a lot more research and paperwork to do for them to have this set up and be legal. If you pay off the books… well, good luck to you for not getting caught. Plus, it will be massive sums of cash out of an ATM every single week for you — eeek.

Nannies are like the rest of us: they have opinions and preferences for the way things should be done, and oftentimes, this is not going to jive with what you want. Because of this, there can be a LOT of emotional labor done on the family’s part to ensure that the nanny is actually following the way YOU want to raise your child and teach them.. and handling your belongings as you want them to be handled. It can be extremely taxing and emotionally exhausting.

Nannies, for the most part, are not actual “educators”: the majority do not have an early childhood education background, and so baby may not do all the activities that she could do if she were in a daycare that does do them. Nannies may not always do things to help your child develop every step of the way. Because of this, some nannies are better suited for young infants, vs. others that are suited for older toddlers. Not all nannies can truly “grow” with a family.

You are relying on a single person to care for your child. If nanny gets sick and takes a sick day, you have no plan B or substitute to rely on. If she quits with zero notice (that sounds familiar), it’s on you to figure out backup childcare and the move-forward plan. You are also relying on the idea that they will be honest and report back what really happened. Even if you have cameras all over your house, you still can’t see what they are doing when they take your child out of your house, so you have to trust what they say is true.

You’ll always have a stranger in your home. While you may get used to having them around and they may become like family… guess what? They aren’t family. They are your employee. You have to be comfortable with this. That means that they may snoop, eat the snacks you reserved for yourself, etc., and you just have to suck it up.

Daycare pros:

Exposure to lots of other children of a similar age, and adults who are trained in all ways possible (early childhood education, CPR, etc.). Child is likely to be more socialized this way. They can also be “peer pressured” into things they may not have naturally done on their own, like building blocks, walking, etc., earlier, simply because they see other kids doing this.

Your baby will have a guaranteed network of “friends,” and you could build a network of parent friends, as well.

Set curriculum for learning: you never have to worry about your child getting bored because most daycares will have a set curriculum that is age appropriate for learning new skills and experiences. Every day will be guaranteed exposure to a variety of things without you constantly checking in and being prescriptive, like music, reading/books, learning new sounds, gestures, yoga, exercise, arts and crafts, science, etc.

Reliability/predictability: If your teacher gets sick, a substitute teacher will take her place. If that substitute gets sick, another teacher will come in and take their place. There are many backups here, and your child will never not have teachers there!

Accountability: If a teacher does something that disappoints you or your child, you can speak up to them and their managers/administrators, and these challenges will get addressed.

In most cases, daycare will be CHEAPER than having a nanny, if not all cases. It’s still expensive in our area, but it’s still cheaper than having our ex nanny.

Daycare cons:

THE SICKNESSES. Your baby will get sick. It’s inevitable. You just have to suck it up and look at the bright side: baby’s immune system is getting stronger with each illness!

Set times/hours mean less flexibility for your own schedule

You will have to do drop-offs/pick-ups

If doing things unconventionally, like baby led weaning, many daycares will not do this for liability reasons. Daycares are also notorious for not handling breast milk in the way it would be handled at home.

All items that go into daycare need to be labeled with your child’s name – like literally, every. Single. One. Emotional labor, much?

Daycare will not do any of your child-related chores, so you will need to do laundry, all of baby’s cleaning, baths, etc.

I think this adequately sums up how I feel? In retrospect, I think we could have put Kaia in daycare at 13-14 months to help with her growth and development. I was never that keen on her being in daycare and having the daycare teachers mess with my breast milk, nor did I want them shoving purees down her throat.


In the last few years since we moved into this building, on average, we probably have made a Costco trip about once every quarter. That’s usually when I stock up on things I know we use a lot, whether it’s spices in bulk, meat (usually chicken thighs, drum sticks, some type of beef, and lamb leg), seafood (shrimp, wild salmon usually), and household supplies (toilet paper, paper towels, baking soda, soap). But our last trip to Costco was in October during our mini trip to Delaware and Pennsylvania, and since, we haven’t really had a reason to go. And with rising costs for everything due to inflation, Chris said it didn’t make sense to rent a car just to go to Costco unless we were planning to go somewhere else instead. So last quarter, we did a order, which didn’t really include any protein because I didn’t think the online prices were that great. Instead, to stock up on meat or seafood, I’ve either been buying small quantities at Trader Joe’s when the prices seem reasonable, or buying at Whole Foods during their occasional sales.

My friend had been subscribing to Butcherbox for quite some time, and though I was intrigued, I wasn’t really ready to commit to $170/box, even if the value did seem quite good given the quality and cuts of meat. She originally gave me a referral code for $50 off. You can set your own delivery schedule, but I wasn’t even sure that the max on the website of every eight weeks was long enough for us to actually finish that much meat/seafood, even with Pookster eating all solid meals now. She’s still a tiny human with a tiny belly! But then my friend told me I could push it off even longer, even if the site didn’t explicitly say that. In the end, I really got pushed over the edge when about two weeks ago, she told me there was a special referral that would give me an entire box for FREE. I would just have to pay for any “deal add-ons,” so i got an extra thick cut ribeye for $26. Essentially, I got $196 worth of protein for just $26, which sounded pretty good to me.

I was very impressed when the box came; it only took about three days to get delivered, and the boxing and packaging were immaculate. I haven’t defrosted any of the cuts yet to see the quality of the meat, but just from the looks of the beef, the marbling looks really good, and the thickness of the steaks are just as advertised on the site. This could be the new way we get the vast majority of our animal protein moving forward if the first batch of protein I defrost looks good. This definitely excited me. I was even happy to reorganize our freezer to make room for all these items yesterday so that I could easily see and identify what we had remaining, and I usually hate doing that.

First sick day from daycare

After just five days at her school, Kaia has already gotten sick. She was already a little feverish overnight from Thursday to Friday. She vomited a little in class on Friday according to her teacher. And Friday night, I could tell that she had phlegm in her throat and was definitely coughing. I had to do multiple nose sucks out of her nose over the weekend, resulting in a LOT of boogers and gunk coming out. It was unpleasant for all of us. And that doesn’t even include the trail of snot and goo she left all over our duvet cover since she refused to sleep on her crib bed. She had a fever above 100 F on and off. So Chris suggested she stay at home with us for an extra day to recover and get extra TLC from us, especially with all her nose wiping and her meals. She, along with almost all babies/toddlers, never eat as well when they are under the weather.

This will be our new reality given she’s going to be exposed to all the germs and all the different boogery, snotty kids at daycare moving forward. It was inevitable that she’d get exposed sooner rather than later, so I’m just bracing myself and hoping hard that she will not be sick every week.